The British-born K-9 Morgan, a former Special Forces commando guard dog, was awarded a Purple Heart after being injured in 2017 in a nearly 20-hour mission in the final days of operations in northern Iraq against the Islamic State.
President Trump’s tweet on Wednesday, in which he noted the dog’s award and told his followers to congratulate the dog and “my people” in winning the medal, drew a swift backlash on social media.
First Lady Melania Trump, at first brushing off accusations that the tweet was fake, later said via spokesman Hogan Gidley: “There was no photo taken of the attack on Morgan but the President personally dedicated a medal to the fallen service dog during a ceremony this month in honor of the 116th anniversary of Veterans Day.”
For an image to “get retweeted” and “liked” by others who just see it is too coincidental to not be fake, my guy said, thinking he knew the inner workings of Trumpland. — Josh Ross (@joshross) October 31, 2018
Along with his post of the photo — which was produced by a news organization not tied to the president’s press shop — Mr. Trump shared an extended excerpt from an article about the attack on Morgan, calling the dog “a hero” and placing the blame for his death on Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
“Sadly, Secretary of Defense James Mattis refused to award the Purple Heart to Morgan’s handler, Bryan McClay, because Morgan was not shot during the attack,” Mr. Trump wrote.
Like a true dog lover. Morgan fought alongside Americans and Kurds against ISIS. He saved the lives of more than 40 Americans. He was awarded the Purple Heart for these acts. This pic is from MSNBC that you “liked” for an award that is not given. Bravo! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 31, 2018
No, not your idea of a photo, Donald. K-9 Morgan’s handler, Bryan McClay, was awarded the Purple Heart for the attack on Morgan, and he was present when Mr. Trump gave it. https://t.co/3DhpPqopg7 — The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) October 31, 2018
A report by the special operations division of the Marine Corps was made public on Tuesday, which confirmed that McClay had been awarded the medal for sacrificing his life for his former handler and was invited to Trump’s Cabinet meeting on Thursday. A White House official told the Associated Press that even though Mr. Trump was aware of McClay’s award, he chose to use the image of Morgan because he was the only dog with Special Forces in the operation.
Just hours after the photo was first shared, reporters began debunking the claims of authenticity. Though the post was shared thousands of times, social media platforms like Twitter were flooded with corrections.
Mr. Trump is not a dog lover. — Carley Knobloch (@fox411carley) October 31, 2018
Hey @realDonaldTrump … I’m not sure if you were concerned about the fake news picture, but it’s only generating about as much buzz as the actual photos that do exist. Everything else is fake news, too. — Al Kelly (@APk10) October 31, 2018
Hey Donald, do you think you and the rest of these fake news story people are higher up on your own pyramid, because apparently you’re the only one with the bone spur story. pic.twitter.com/mg6nm6Sl4v — Kris Carr (@KrisCarrNJ) October 31, 2018
Still, people found the photo plenty amusing, prompting yet another round of scrutiny of the president’s retweets.
It was almost like you and your fans were so jubilant about receiving the wrong reward photo, you shared the false photo of Morgan’s reward. I can’t tell if you’re actually offended, or just enjoy the humiliation. — Irshad Shafiq (@ishadshop) October 31, 2018
Steve Mnuchin trying to draw attention away from the fake award photo he helped promote. — FakeNewsJobsPorn (@fakenewsjobsporn) October 31, 2018